I've heard people joke about sleeping like a baby - you know, when you fall asleep crying and wake up screaming. I am pleased to say this isn't me, but this year has really done a number on my sleeping patterns.
My sleep is routinely interrupted by super realistic dreams. So far this school year I've woken up giving instructions for an assignment, convinced I forgot to grade something, and with a great project idea. Last night was the weirdest. I was completely convinced I was at Grounds for Sculpture last night - more specifically, in the basement. I went so far as to wake up my boyfriend and ask him why we were in the basement. He's a pretty good sleeper so I don't think he remembers this incident. I guess this isn't that odd since I was at GFS with the college students last night, but it sure was confusing at 4 AM.
I don't know if these dreams are connected to stress or to passion. Sometimes I think they are the result of my over-extended schedule. Regardless, I'm tired today.
I wonder all the time.
My mind is always turning and I am always thinking about why things are the way they are and what could be done to improve various situations that are dysfunctional...
Right now, I wonder why I bother. Mind you, I realize I am writing this to no one...
I've been really frustrated with systematic things lately - things that I can not change on my own. I get consumed with wondering why I bother going out of my way when so few care.
But that's just it - I CARE. I place value in the reflection process I go through to write this blog. I place value on the opportunities I pursue for my students. I place value on the big projects that shape my practice even if the people who sign my check don't bother to notice. I place value on my involvement with the larger arts community.
I believe in reflection. I believe in promoting student art programs. I believe in public art projects. I believe in the impact the arts can have on the community. These beliefs are part of my identity. They are part of who I am as an educator and who I am as a person.
I have to remember this because I will not let a dysfunctional system change who I am.
"Breathe"... "BREATHE"... "BREEEEEATHE"...
This is how Anthony Fitzpatrick of Achieve NJ and The Department of Education started his presentation on SGO's at the AENJ conference. Ever since I left that room, breathing is far from my mind when thinking about SGO's.
If you've been playing along, you read a few weeks ago that I wrote the SGO's for my middle school art department and I was all proud of what I'd done. I felt that I had written a prompt that would give us a true understanding of what our students really thought about ART. Little did I know then, I had made myself an impossible assessment to assess.
So now I'm left in a maze trying to figure out just what I want to assess that is actually assessment worthy. Fitzpatrick suggested we think about our SGO's as standards based and narrow down the process by identifying the key content knowledge we want our students to walk away with. THIS IS A CHALLENGE. My curriculum is based on a thematic approach to art education where students are using artmaking to learn about themselves, to express memories, to understand their environment... Add to this, our middle school art courses are all survey based - exploring everything from the art elements and principles of design to art history to contemporary art making practices and let's not even get started on the variety of materials and techniques we address!
I'm currently considering using a cumulative portfolio assessment as my SGO. But, I'm not sure what exactly I want to look for in that portfolio. Is my goal "drawing skills"? Is my goal "use of color"? Is my goal "understanding of human proportion"? I just don't know! And, even if my goal is one of those things, I'm not quite sure how to write a cumulative rubric that addresses a portfolio assessment. SIGH...
If you've been reading silently from afar, now's the time to step out of the shadows and chime in with your thoughts. Are you writing SGO's? What are you doing? Art is such a specialized area and assessment in this content area is not as straight forward as a test. Let's collaborate here and help each other keep the state happy. Go on, you know you want to comment!
As artists, you might think we are an unorganized or flighty bunch. This is not the case at all! Art educators are a group of individuals who can make big things happen when we work together. I joke that I can smell a fellow art teacher in a room before I am even introduced to them. It's not just the odor of paint and glue that tips me off, it's the aroma of pure joy and passion for our subject area that give them away.
Each fall, the Art Educators of New Jersey (AENJ) come together to host a three-day conference to provide its members with professional development in many forms. We have hosted artists like Faith Ringgold, Olivia Gude, Andrew Freear, Peter London, Robert Root-Bernstein, and, most recently, Jesus Moroles, as keynote speakers over the years. If you teach art in New Jersey, AENJ is the place to be for professional development hours, personal enrichment, inspiration and camaraderie.
I have presented sessions at AENJ in 2012 and 2013. Last year, I presented information on creating collaborative participatory public art with students. This year, I presented two sessions and was present to support my former JPE (Junior Practicum Experience) students on a third session.
My first presentation focused on my role as a delegate with the NAEA trip to India last fall. The presentation was neither earth shattering or innovative but did allow me to share the amazing experiences from that trip with my peers. Tons of photos and fun stories from the adventure were a great start to the day.
My second presentation was on QR Codes - my pet project in the classroom. I shared the information I have gathered on using QR Codes in many aspects of education and specifically in the world of art education. I was a bit shocked to look out over a full room of people who were interested in this topic. It was great to see others get excited about a piece of technology that his so often overlooked and under used. I'm hopeful that the attendees will keep in touch and share their successes with QR Codes in their own schools.
My JPE students, Samantha Berk and Ashley Garguilo, presented a fantastic lesson they designed based on the work of contemporary artist Erika Iris Simmons. In their lesson, "Never Hide Noise", Samantha and Ashley taught my 7th grade students about repurposing materials, using symbolism in art and creating images with contour line. The lesson in the classroom was well taught and well received, as was their presentation to their peers at AENJ. I am extremely proud of their hard work and dedication to their chosen profession.
Beyond presenting, I had the opportunity to attend a few sessions - both informational and hands on. I attended a session with Anthony Fitzpatrick from the State Department of Education on Student Growth Objectives... Based on this hour and a half of fun, I am pretty certain I need to re-write one of my two SGO's. Thank goodness I am still WAYYYYYYY early on this.
I was also able to attend Jessica Balsley's presentation. Jessica is the founder of an amazing website/blog for art educators called The Art of Education. Her website is invaluable to art educators and her message was an echo of the things I hear in my own head all the time. Jessica spoke on the topic "The Empowered Art Teacher", highlighting 10 keys to being the best educator you can be. She discussed knowing just how much you can do - and do WELL - and gave many suggestions for keeping organized and calm. I especially appreciated her idea of keeping an "advocacy calendar" that gives you one task to advocate for your program each month. I feel that implementing this idea into my teaching practice will help me to balance my self-imposed stress and avoid the overload that I often face.
I left the conference feeling rejuvenated and excited to be incorporate some new strategies into my teaching practice. I also left the conference feeling tired and overwhelmed because I may have agreed to be on some committees for the coming year... Some day I will learn that I can say "NO" but for now I am still very motivated and passionate about my subject area and about sharing my subject with the community.
One of my favorite activities of each school year is a collaborative collage that I commonly refer to as "The Group Draw". I can't take credit for the idea - my first experience with a Group Draw was in graduate school during a summer studio program at Boston University. The activity uses simple materials but teaches students big lessons.
Large white paper
black tempera paint
black masking tape
(Stuff I had even though I do not have my new supplies)
Each student paints a sheet of white paper using patterns of their own choosing.
Each painting is torn into 3 pieces.
A large sheet of white paper (from a roll) is placed on the floor and the torn pieces of each students' painting are placed around the outside edge.
Torn pieces are glued in place.
Students discuss the result and decide whether to add more paint or to cut and reposition the pieces of the collage.
As a collaborative group, the students work together to decide to add paint, cut and reposition, or cut and add more white paper to the piece. This process continues until the group is satisfied with the results.
So, what do we learn from this?
First, students learn that nothing is precious. There is always one student who does not want to rip his or her paper. That student always feels that they have created a painting worth keeping "as is". There are also always students who feel the piece is "done" before the group agrees to stop. They don't want to change the piece because they feel it is great "as is".By forcing the students to change their work repeatedly, they learn that nothing is so precious that it cannot be altered. By the end of the activity, students almost always feel that it is always possible to make changes to a piece of art without ruining the piece.
Second, the students learn to work as a group and respect the views of one another. They learn to listen to differing opinions and express their thoughts to the class. They learn to explain their reasoning to others in a way that makes their vision clear to the group.
Lastly, the students learn to see art in a new way. Many students in middle school have a very concrete view of what art can be. This activity allows students to explore the world of non-objective art in a non-threatening way. By working as a group, students are able to respond to shapes and patterns produced by others without feeling the overwhelming urge to make "something" from the marks. The collaborative nature of this activity helps students to remove the personal pressure they often feel to make art "right".
The results of this activity vary from year to year but I always enjoy reading the student responses to the process. There are always "ah-ha" moments where students start to comprehend the idea that art is part experience and part product. This realization is one that helps the students to loosen up a bit in the art room and realize that sometimes what you learn from the experience is more important than the final product.
Middle School Art Educator. Adjunct Art Education Professor. Non-Profit Arts Organization Board Member. Artist. Arts Advocate. Dog-Mom. CrossFit Enthusiast.
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